Beet biofuel plan for Portlaoise

The Togher Inland Port at Portlaoise is one of the preferred locations for a new biofuel plant as part of a major effort to revive the sugar beet industry in Ireland.

The Togher Inland Port at Portlaoise is one of the preferred locations for a new biofuel plant as part of a major effort to revive the sugar beet industry in Ireland.

Spearheaded by Beet Ethanol Energy Teoranta (BEET) Ireland, the proposed €400 million state of the art facility would represent a massive investment in the county and a potential jobs boost for Portlaoise. An estimated 500 jobs are planned during construction with 250 staff to run the plant. A further 2,000 indirect jobs in the service sector are also promised.

The BEET Ireland group, consisting of former sugar beet growers, addressed the Joint Oireachtas committee on Agriculture last week, after which its Chairman, Michael Hoey of Country Crest Foods, indicated to media that a highly suitable site in the midlands had been identified.

The Togher site is believed to meet the criteria in terms of location, services, arable land, as well as local expertise in the industry.

The BEET Ireland group has targeted 2016 for the reintroduction of beet Ireland, with the next four years and the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy being an absolutely critical factor.

BEET Ireland has also proposed a new business model for sugar and ethanol manufacturing, which includes using heating from the factory to cultivate protected crops in glasshouses, adjacent to the site. It business plan sees growers as having a key role and stakeholder status in the industry.

When contacted by the Leinster Express last week, Cllr James Deegan confirmed that he and Laois County Council’s Senior Executive Planner, Kieran Kehoe have been in consultation with the Directors of Beet Ireland over the last number of months, regarding the Togher location.

They also attended last week’s joint meeting of the Oireachtas committee of Agriculture.

“The Beet Ireland group headed up by Mr. Michael Hoey and his fellow Directors gave a two hour presentation to the Dail committee and the presentation received cross party support that the redevelopment of the sugar industry be part of the negotiations of the upcoming CAP Reform,” stated Cllr Deegan.

“Togher Inland Port is now emerging as the favoured location for any new beet/ethanol processing plant because the site has all the requirements that have been set out by the promoters of this venture.

“There are other groups promoting alternative sites for the beet processing plant in all the beet growing areas, but the Portlaoise site ticks all the boxes. It’s not a matter of if there will be a sugar beet industry in Ireland again, it’s a matter of when,” stated Cllr Deegan.

Senator John Whelan said he was delighted with developments.

“Laois County Council are to be commended for the initiatives they are taking to sell the county as an ideal location for a new state-of-the-art beet processing plant. This would create real sustainable jobs and Portlaoise is superbly suited in terms of logistics, road and rail network and a strong local tradition in the sugar beet industry.

“This kind of job creation is critical for the county and key to the country’s economic recovery and I will be backing these efforts all the way and at every opportunity and hopefully these endeavours will pay off in the coming months,” stated Sen Whelan